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The non-Springbok Ben Tameifuna labels one of world's best scrummagers

By Josh Raisey
A dejected Ben Tameifuna of Tonga looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Ireland and Tonga at Stade de la Beaujoire on September 16, 2023 in Nantes, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Tonga and Bordeaux-Begles tighthead Ben Tameifuna holds South African props in very high regard, and understandably so.

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Every league is littered with South African props, with 120kg+ scrummagers being up there with one of the country’s biggest exports.

Having played in Super Rugby, the Top 14 and on the international stage, Tameifuna would have come up against his fair share of South African props in his time as well.

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But when asked who are the best scrummagers he has faced, the tighthead had one front row in particular that sprung to mind- a Sharks front three comprising Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis.

Speaking as a guest on Le French Rugby Podcast recently, the 145kg prop recalled coming up against that Sharks, and Springboks, front row early in his career. Of course, he would have been pitted against loosehead Mtawarira on that occasion, and many others, but he still would have got a taste of the scrummaging power of the fellow Springbok Jannie du Plessis on the other side of the scrum.

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“Obviously the South Africans, scrumming is in their DNA,” Tameifuna said when asked who the best scrummagers he has faced are.

“I remember my first year at the Chiefs, we played the Sharks in the Super 15 final and the front row was Beast and the du Plessis brothers. The year before that I was in the pub watching a World Cup, to be a year later scrumming against the South Africa front row in the Super 15 final was pretty massive.

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“I think the South Africans, they’re made to scrum. They love it. Just look what they did in the quarter-final when they called a free-kick. They’ve been one of the best scrums in the world.

“It must be something in the water there in Africa. They’re built different.”

But when quizzed on who are currently the best props around, the Tongan singled out Ireland and Leinster tighthead Tadhg Furlong for changing what is capable of players in that position today.

“Furlong from Leinster, he’s always been consistent,” he said.

“Props that are still scrumming in the 60th minute as if they’re in the first minute. Those are the players who have taken what a normal prop should look like then to what it should look like now. They’re doing an awesome job in the position.”

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Jon 2 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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